Comcast: A National Treasure

This week, we upgraded our cable TV package.   We were on their most basic 15-channel plan, now we’re on Digital Economy, giving my wife the extra channels she’s been suffering without for the last few years.

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Our Tivo died last week.  I love my Tivo, and we saw its death coming, so we ordered a replacement.  We accidentally ordered the wrong one.  We got the one that can’t take a signal straight off of the cable.  It needs a cablecard.

Crap.

We could send it back and miss out on the Tivo for another week, or we could upgrade our cable package.

Hmm….

We looked at Comcast’s site to see what was available.  Boost Plus–a internet + TV package–was available for $69.99/month for a year.   That’s $6 more than we were paying, for about 30 more channels and it came with 2 years of free HBO.  Yay!

Call Comcast.

The rep couldn’t find the offer, but there’s another one for $79.99 with no HBO, would we like that?

No, and we need to call the online offer number, since you can’t just transfer me.  WTF?

So I ordered from the website directly, because I was getting sick of people already.   I love e-commerce, just for that reason.

The last step of the process?  A 30 minute online chat with a rep to schedule a tech.   Grr.

After “Hello”, the first thing the rep said was, “Based on our conversation, the best thing to suit your needs is…”   A freaking upsell to open the conversation.   Buddy, you don’t know my needs.   You’re here to run a calendar.  I hate people.

No, I don’t want Triple Play.  Your phone service isn’t cheaper than I’m paying now.

No, I don’t want a zillion channels.   I have Netflix and a Roku.

No, I will not pay modem rental.  I bought my own for $50 instead of paying you $7/month for it.

No, I don’t want equipment protection.  The box will be on my dresser, out of reach.  If it breaks on its own, I’ll return it.

Yes, I do want the deal to last the entire year–per the ad–instead of the 6 months you’re trying to change it to.

Great!  Now my choices are a) pay $10 to have the new cable box shipped, b) pay $30 for a tech to come over and plug in 2 cables, c) drive to the cable office and pick up the box.   I’ll take the 15 minute drive and combine it with lunch with my wife, thanks.  I have to go there for the cablecard, anyway, since that’s not something you ship.

Wait a second!  Going to the store means we’re going to cancel everything we’ve just done?  And the store doesn’t have access to this deal, either?   Nevermind, I’ll take the shipping charges.

WTF?

So, it’s off to the store to get my card, but not the box that will ship from that store.   After a 30 minute wait, the wonderful(no sarcasm) lady behind the counter was happy to give me a card.  Unfortunately, the rep from the previous night had entered the wrong deal, with a note on the account mentioning the correct one.  Because that’s how computers and automated billing systems work.   His plan left an error on the account that prevented anything new from being added, like my cablecard.

Grr.

Double guh-errr.

Let’s cancel everything from the previous night.    There’s a better deal.

We got the same package for $49.99/month for a year, then $69.99/month for another year, with HBO for $5/month.  I got to leave with my card and my box.  Wee!  I love you, lady!

Comcast, seriously, WTF?

Now, if I could just get Tivo to recognize the channel lineup for Digital Economy.

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The Game of Thrones Guide to Personal Finance

The Game of Thrones series was something I tried to avoid for a while as an HBO-hyped soft-core way to steal an hour of an audience’s life every week.

Pedicab in the form of the Iron Throne from th...

Then I read the first book.   Within minutes of finishing it, I downloaded the second, followed by the rest.

I haven’t seen the show, but I have read all of the books.   If you are into court intrigue and gratuitous sex and violence, you’ll enjoy the series.

If you aren’t into those things, you can still pick up some good financial lessons from the series.

 Everything you care about will die.

You may not have to worry about your son shooting you in the stomach with a crossbow, or your foster-son burning your castle down while you’re away, but bad things happen.    Your company will close or your car will break down or your refrigerator will die.   Allow me to repeat myself:  Bad things happen.   Prepare for them now.

What will you do if one of your appliances break, or your kid needs braces?   After the emergency is the wrong time to start thinking about it.

 Money solves a lot of problems.

If you’ve got some money set aside, whether it’s a repair fund, and emergency fund, or just a mayonnaise jar full of cash buried in the backyard, it’s going to help you survive life’s little upsets.   You don’t need enough to buy an opposing army’s loyalty, just enough to get you through whatever financial emergency is currently rocking your world.

 You can’t buy loyalty.

Even if you sell your sister to the barbarians in exchange for their fighting prowess, you can’t rely on that.   Don’t think that buying a car for your kid is a good replacement for spending time with her, or that a fancy vacation can take the place of regular, meaningful conversations with your wife.   Money solves a lot of things, but it can’t take the place of actually being there for your loved ones.   Your presence means more than your presents.

It all boils down to this:

 Bad things happen, but you can protect yourself with a combination of money and meaningful relationships.

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Five Ways to Save Money On Cable

Cable is a luxury.   There are very few people out there who can actually and legitimately consider cable television to be a necessity of life.  For the rest of us, it’s just something that’s nice to have.   Unfortunately, it’s expensive.  In my area, prices come as high as $90 plus tax, and that’s not including any of the fancy channels that could feed my True Blood addiction.  If you start adding on channels, you can get up to $250 per month.

That’s a lot of cash.

Cutting back on cable TV is one of the easiest ways to get your spending under control.  Here are 5 ways to make it happen.

1.  Ditch it

Do you really need cable at all?  How much of your life do you waste in front of the TV?  This wouldn’t work well in my house.  We enjoy too many shows, and a lack of TV aggravates my insomnia.   When I wake up at 2AM, I need something mindless to distract me while I fall back asleep.

2.  Netflix Instant

I love my Netflix.   With Instant, as long as you aren’t too hooked on watching the latest show as it comes out, you can catch most of the show you enjoy.   There are thousands of TV series to choose from.   I make a habit of choosing a couple of shows at a time, and watching the entire series before moving on.  This does have the drawback of leaving you a couple of seasons behind for some shows, like In Plain Sight.  Grr.

3.  Go basic

If you do need TV, do you need the extended cable-only channels?  Can you get by with basic cable, and just get the shows that would be otherwise broadcast?   That’s what we did.  This, combined with #2, make TV cheap and easy.

4.  All internet

Did you know that you can use a Roku box to get Netflix Instant, Hulu Plus, Crackle, and more?  I have more channels available there than I’ve ever had on cable.   Starting at $50, it’s a steal.

5.  Drop the fancy channels

HBO, Skinimax, and Showtime are pure unnecessary luxuries.  Save yourself some money and buy each series on DVD as they come out.   If you buy one a month, you’ll still come out ahead.

I’m not about to tell you that cable is evil or that TV is rotting your brain.  I enjoy my rot, and you should be able to do so, too.   Try not to waste extra money doing it.

How do you save money on TV?

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